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Last updated : Nov 2009
East India
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Kolkata (Calcutta)

Kolkata (Calcutta), the capital of West Bengal and the largest city in India is also the hub of the east. Founded as a British trading post in the 17th century, it quickly grew into a thriving center. Its colonial heritage is evident in the buildings of Clive Street and Chowringhee Street now Netaji Subhash Road and Jawaharlal Nehru Road.

The city is vibrant and filled with life. It is a major business center and has fine bazaars and markets. It is also the center of the country's intellectual and creative activity, including the sub-continent's best film-makers. Central Kolkata (Calcutta) is best observed from the Maidan, the central area of parkland where early morning yoga sessions are held.

The city’s Indian Museum is 1 of the best in Asia. Additional attractions that should be visited include the Ochterlony Monument (Sahid Minar), the white marble Victoria Memorial and the headquarters of the Rama Krishna movement.

On the other side of the the river are the Botanical Gardens and the Kali Temple of Dakshineshwasar (Belur Math headquarters of Ramakrishna Movement).

Bihar and Orissa

To the west is the state of Bihar, containing the religious center of Bodhgaya, a sacred site for both Hindus and Buddhists. To the south, in the state of Orissa, are 3 important temple cities. Leading, is Bhubaneswar, a town in which once boasted over 7,000 temples, 500 of which have survived. The largest 1 is the great Lingaraja Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva.

A short distance away to the south of Bhubaneswar lies Puri, one of the four holiest cities in India, presently being developed into a beach resort. In June and July Puri presents 1 of India’s most sensational festivals, the Rath Yatra or ‘Car Festival’, at which pilgrims pay homage to images of gods depicted on huge wooden chariots.

A short journey along the coast to the north is Konarak, popular for its ‘Black Pagoda’ – a huge solitary temple to the sun god in the image of a drawn by horse drawn chariot. The sculpture has a sensuous look similar to that of Khajuraho, and is considered amongst the finest in India.


North of Kolkata (Calcutta) is the great railway journeys, the ‘Toy Train' to Darjeeling. The final part of the line travels through jungle, tea gardens and pine forests. Darjeeling straddles a mountain slope, which descends steeply down to the valley, and has beautiful views of Kanchenjunga (8,586 metres / 28,169 feet), the 3rd-highest mountain in the world. It is the headquarters of the Indian Mountaineering Institute, and the birthplace of Sherpa Tenzing. It is also a world-renowned tea-growing hub.

A 2 and a half hour bus ride takes one to Kalimpong, a bazaar town at the base of the Himalayas. Many treks can be made from here to places offering beautiful panoramas of the mountains.


Further north lies the mountain state of Sikkim. The capital, Gangtok, sits to the southwest. The main activity is trekking, however it is still in its infancy, therefore, facilities are minimal.

Presently, travel for non-Indian residents is limited. Trekking is only allowed in groups, and individuals can only visit Gangtok, Rumtek and Phodom. The closest railheads are Darjeeling and Siliguri, located on the slow but spectacular line of India’s northeast frontier railway.

Assam and Meghalaya

Still further to the east are the states of Assam and Meghalaya. Assam is well known for tea and wildlife reserves, and can be reached via the state capital of Guwahati.

The tiger reserve of Manas is also rich with various wildlife, and in Kaziranga it's possible to see the one-horned rhinoceros of India.

Shillong is The capital of Meghalaya and home of the Khasi people, The region has many waterfalls, brooks and pine groves, and is described as the ‘Scotland of the East’.
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